The Laramie Project Cycle
Looking back on the first decade of the 21st century, it's hard to think of any play that had a stronger political impact than "The Laramie Project," a 2000 documentary-style drama that explores the reactions of dozens of residents of Laramie, Wyoming to the horrific murder of 21-year-old gay college student Matthew Shepard, which took place there in 1998.
A decade after the incident, the Tectonic Theater Project, the collective of writers that devised the play, returned to Laramie to conduct follow-up interviews. Their new piece, "The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later," is now being performed in repertory with the original play by its creators.
Although "The Laramie Project" went into great detail about Shepard's murder and has a narrative flow, it is primarily about the soul-searching done by the residents about how two men who grew up in Laramie could have performed such a hateful act.
Unlike many other political plays that have a didactic agenda to shove at the audience, "The Laramie Project" truthfully examines an entire community in the midst of a moral crisis.
While "The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later" does not have the same emotional impact as its predecessor, it makes for a decent and well-intentioned companion piece and epilogue.
In addition to presenting interviews conducted from prison with Shepard's two murderers, it shows how little has changed in Laramie besides a new bench dedicated in Shepard's memory.
Most troubling is how many residents now question whether the murder was even a hate crime, insisting instead that it was the botched result of a drug-induced robbery.
To be honest, I've seen better productions of the first play than this version. Nevertheless, "The Laramie Project Cycle" offers an unprecedented opportunity to experience both chapters simultaneously.
If you go: "The Laramie Project Cycle" plays at BAM Harvey Theater through Feb. 24. 651 Fulton St., 718-636-4100, bam.org.